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"Humbling Down"
James 4:6

Wednesday AM Bible Study
September 10, 2003

Many people end their lives in a state of regretful alienation from God. They chose to live apart from Him at one point; but near the end of their lives, having realized their terrible error, they still do not repent. They feel that they chose their course, and now they must live with it. In the end, the thing that keeps them from turning to the God who offers His love and forgiveness to them is sinful pride. It takes so much humility to admit the wrong of bad life choices that many refuse to do so. It requires humility to fall before God, admit one's error, and repent of it, appealing to God for saving grace and mercy. It can therefore be rightly said that pride is the sin that keeps more people on the course to hell than any other.

This leads us to James' instructions in James 4:1-10; and most specifically to verse 6. There we find that the message of the Gospel is a call for us to do what many, sadly, fail to do - to humble ourselves before a gracious God in order to receive His offer of grace.

James here quotes from Proverbs 3:34; and in a sense, the whole gospel message is contained in this one verse. It speaks of (1) the rift of 'opposition' created between ourselves and God because of our sin, (2) the Good News that God is able to bridge that rift and give a grace to sinners that is greater than their sin, and (3) how we can personally receive this greater grace.

"... Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud ...'"

A. "Pride" is one of the things that God explicitly says he 'hates' (Proverbs 6:16-17; see also 16:5, 18; Psalm 138:6). At the heart of it, pride is saying to God, "My will - not Yours - be done!" Every time we sin, every time we disobey God, we're in essence saying to Him that we think we know better than He how to run our lives and bring about our own happiness. We're in essence setting ourselves up above Him and His commands. And so, pride is at the root of sin. No wonder God hates it so!

B. Perhaps that's why this same idea is found in other places in the New Testament. It sums up so much of the difference that exists between those to whom God shows mercy and those whom He opposes (1 Peter 5:5-6; Matthew 23:12).

C. Pride, more than anything else, keeps people out of heaven; because no one can come to Jesus as the Savior unless they first admit that they are sinners that need to be saved. How God hates it when one of His fallen creatures struts around before Him in arrogant pride - especially when He stands so ready to offer them His grace!

"But He gives more grace."

A. Because of our sin nature, inherited from Adam, we have a sinful bent toward arrogantly setting ourselves up against our Creator and His commandments. No sooner does God tells us to do something in His Laws and commandments, than we are refusing to do it. No sooner does He tell us not to do something, than we're off doing it . . . and suffering the consequences.

B. But consider Romans 5:20-21. The bad news is that God is opposed to the proud. But the Good News is that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins; so that the proud man or woman -- living in open rebellion against his or her Creator - can be forgiven, the opposition can end, and God's grace can be poured out upon them. It's a 'grace' that is greater' or 'more' than the sin.

"'... But gives grace to the humble.'"

A. Imagine a man going to the doctor, and the doctor telling him, "You have a deadly disease. Your situation is very, very grave; and you can only be saved if you will do exactly what I tell you to do." What if the patient then said, "Well, thanks, doc; but I don't think I'm as bad off as you're making me out to be. After all, there's other folks that are worse off than I am. And I do appreciate your advice; but let me tell you what I plan to do to make myself better . . ." Such a man would be an arrogant, prideful fool who deserved what he got. And a man or a woman is no less an arrogant, prideful fool when God tells them that they are sinners who are doomed to judgment, and tells them how to be saved, only to reject God's verdict and offer of salvation because they don't like it.

B. Obviously, to be saved then, one must "humble themselves in the presence of the Lord." No one can come to God for salvation in any other way than in total humility. Consider why this is so:

1. To be saved by God, someone would have to admit that they have sinned against Him - that they had lived in rebellion against the One to whom they rightfully belonged. This requires humility.

2. To be saved by God, they'd have to admit that there's nothing they could ever do - no amount of good deeds -- that could ever pay the penalty for their sins and make things right with Him. Again, humility is needed to admit this.

3. To be saved by God, they'd have to admit to God that, unless He did something, they would rightly deserve His condemnation and wrath; and that He would be just in condemning them to eternal judgment and to thrust them from His presence forever. To admit this about oneself requires humility.

4. To be saved by God, they'd have to place their trust completely in the only provision God has made for their sins -- the only payment for sins that He accepts - that is, the sacrifice of His own dear, sinless Son on the cross. They cannot offer an alternative to Him. They would have to humble themselves before Him and accept His plan.

5. To be saved by God, they'd have to accept that, when they trust in the sacrifice of Christ alone for their sins, God is satisfied with that sacrifice, and counts their faith in it as 'righteousness'. In humility, they would have to refrain from trying to 'augment' God's salvation with their own good deeds - which could never be good enough!

6. And to be saved by God, they'd have to turn away from their old sinful life-style patterns, and, out of love for their Savior, increasingly hate the sins that put Him on the cross in the first place. They could not, in arrogant pride, cling to the cross on which Jesus died for sins, and at the same time cling to the same sins He died to save them from. This, too, would require humility.

* * * * * * * * * *

King David modeled something of this humility for us in Psalm 32. He had committed the horrible sin of adultery with another man's wife; and then complicated his situation further by murdering the man himself. He suffered greatly under the discipline of God for this. But his experience reveals the pattern of repentance:

A. Following his repentance in humility, David wrote of how he attempted to cover up his sin - and of the way he suffered for it (vv. 1-4). The pride that made him keep this sin a secret was eating him up inside.

B. Finally, once David was confronted by a prophet, he crumbled before God in humility and repented (v. 5). God is ready to show forgiveness and grace toward any sinner - no matter how much they have rebelled against Him. And to humble oneself before the Lord is the first step toward experiencing this grace.

C. And so, we're given a marvelous invitation to repent (vv. 6-7). What a wonderfully gracious God our God is! We have all sinned against Him. We have all shaken our fists at Him in arrogant pride at one time or another, and told Him that we would not obey Him as He commanded us to do, and that we would not worship Him as He created us to do. But, as James reminds us, God gives a greater grace.

Have you humbled yourself before Him and received His saving grace through Jesus Christ?

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